In 2009 a shocking story emerged of the case of 77 missing Chinese youngsters who had gone missing from a home close to Heathrow airport.
The Guardian first reported this case on 5 May 2009, when they obtained a leaked copy of a restricted internal intelligence report written by the UK Border & Immigration Agency that stated 77 Chinese children/young people had gone missing from one home on the perimeter of Heathrow airport – just 5 minutes away from Terminal 5 – between 2006-2009. I now know the home was called ‘Margaret Cassidy House‘ – Bath Road, Longford.
Here’s a more recent (2012) and worrying video showing the conditions inside:
Is this place still being used to home the vulnerable?
A hotel and a single street in Hackney were used many times by the children being flown in to Heathrow – which it is believed were used for trafficking purposes.
Deputy Director of Children’s Services for Hillingdon Council (who ran the home) was called Julian Worcester, and he stated that the children were going missing due to the “facilitation of organised crime groups and the children may then be exploited for financial gain“.
So what happened to the 77 who went missing?
According to the report, only 4 were found, of which:
- Two girls returned a year later having worked in brothels in the Midlands. One was pregnant, the other had been given a surgical implant contraceptive device in her arm.
A spokesman for Hillingdon Council stated:
“(The home was actually) an assessment centre for unaccompanied young people 16 years and over.
We cannot lock the doors because it’s a breach of their human rights. Unless they have committed a crime we do not place them in a secure setting.
We try to persuade them not to run away from the centre.”
How big was the network involved?
As well as trafficking children around the UK, the following countries were also involved:
What happened next?
A surveillance of the home was undertaken for a while but it was cancelled in February 2008.
- Who ordered it to stop?
- What was actually done to stop the trafficking of the children and deal with the home in question?
- How could surveillance result in no identification of the criminals?
- In total, how much did it cost financially (aside from the innocence of the children involved)?
These are questions that need answering – particularly because Julian Worcester told The Guardian that between April and December 2008, out of some 41 children taken in to care in Hillingdon, 13 disappeared – almost 2 a month!
Why the apathy towards the plight of the children involved?
Minutes of a recent meeting about Chinese child trafficking attended by officers from the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the UK Human Trafficking Centre revealed a “lack of will to deal with child trafficking cases” among police child abuse investigation teams.
It wasn’t a problem restricted to Heathrow. In 2008, SOCA managed to bust a trafficking ring operating at Manchester airport, which begs the question – how did they manage to halt the ring there but not at Heathrow?
2008 Care Leavers Association Survey
Following a survey in December 2008 by Care Leavers Association, it was reported that of the 172 local authorities contacted:
- 155 local authorities responded;
- Between 376-389 children had disappeared – whereabouts unknown;
- More than a quarter of the missing were asylum seekers;
- 41 local authorities had children missing;
- One local authority had 110 children disappear between 2000-2008 of which 73 were still under 18 and most were asylum seekers flown in to Gatwick Airport;
- Six local authorities kept no record of children who had gone missing and at that time there were over 400 missing from care at that point;
- The local authorities were mainly from London and the South East;
- West Sussex recorded the highest number of missing children despite spending £3.5m a year on care for unaccompanied children seeking asylum plus a team of social workers based at Gatwick Airport;
- Hillingdon council reported that the majority who had gone missing in their care had done so within a week of arriving in the UK;
- The local authority in Newham, East London, stated eight Chinese children had gone missing and they believe they had been trafficked;
- In 2010 there were no safe houses for trafficked children in the UK.
In response to the findings of the survey, the Local Goverment Association said councils across the country had “robust systems” in place to protect children in care. Really?!
“The fact that some children do go missing is an ongoing concern for everyone involved in the protection of children and dealing with this continues to be a high priority.
Councils will continue to do all they can to work with the police to protect the most vulnerable young people,” a spokesman said.
Such a priority that they halted a surveillance operation in February 2008?
An earlier government report concluded that the missing children were mainly girls from:
- Sierra Leone
and who were then trafficked in to Europe to be exploited and abused in the sex industry.
Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre Research
Research by CEOP discovered:
- At least 325 youngsters were identified as having been potential victims of traffickers in just one year (although they said the figure was likely to be much higher);
- Children came from 52 different countries, including China, Britain, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Romania and Vietnam;
- Half were forced to work as prostitutes;
- Others were used as forced labour on building sites, in restaurants and beauty salons;
- The rest were used in the drug trade.
- Evidence was also uncovered that children were being trafficked around the UK for sexual exploitation.
Despite a number of FoI requests about the care home incident and missing 77 children, it seems to be a closed subject:
Missing boy, Rossi Matuvovo (aka Rossi Nkilankosi)
On 16 August 2004 3 year old Rossi Matuvovo arrived in the UK travelling with a man called Fernando Matuvovo, who claimed to be his father. Rossi was from Angola and they were flying together from Luanda, Angola, to Rome via Heathrow.
When they reached Rome they were sent back to the UK by Italian authorities for not having the correct documentation, at which point they were dealt with by immigration and housed at the Thornecliffe Hotel at North Hyde Lane in Hounslow (on M4, Great West Road). That was the last positive sighting of Rossi.
Thornecliffe Hotel (now rebuilt & renamed as Heston Hyde Hotel)
On 31 August 2004, Fernando Matuvovo was again stopped, this time having travelled to France. He was using forged documents and was alone. When questioned he claimed he had left Rossi in a creche at the Thornecliffe Hotel but, upon checking, the creche was closed on the day he supposedly did so.
The police began an immediate search for Rossi and on 7 October 2004 it was reported that a boy matching Rossi’s description had been found attempting to travel from France to Geneva, Switzerland with two adults. Police believed Rossi was taken from the UK to Paris via the Eurostar between 16th and 31st August 2004. Rossi’s disappearance highlighted the concerns authorities had about child trafficking following on from the awful plight of both the ‘Torso in the Thames’ and Victoria Climbie cases.
Thornecliffe Hotel – Joginder Sanger
The case also brought to the public’s attention the use of the Thornecliffe Hotel in Heston to house asylum seekers. Despite the owner being paid £4million by the tax payer, it was described as run down and cramped, with allegations of infestations of cockroaches and bedbugs.
The owner of this hotel is a man called Joginder Sanger – a multi-millionaire businessman who, in 2011, was named ‘Asian of the Year‘. Joginder is a long-term close friend of Keith Vaz, who just happened to also be on the judging panel for the awards (and himself a recipient in 1989), as did the Hinduja brothers – whom both Keith Vaz and Peter Mandelson lost their cabinet positions over. Joginder is also a friend of HRH Prince Charles.
From hospitalitybizindia.com, 25 November 2011:
Joginder Sanger, a leading hotelier, has been named ‘Asian of the Year 2011’ at the 24th Edition of Asian Who’s Who International in Central London. Sanger received the honour in the presence of a host of MPs, dignitaries, industry leaders at the Dorchester Hotel recently.
He was selected by an independent panel of eminent advisors including previous award winners such as Karan Bilimoria; Founder and Chairman, Cobra Beer , Baroness Shreela Flather; Keith Vaz, a MP and the Hinduja brothers. Other previous recipients of the honour include cricketer Imran Khan, Vitabiotics founder Kartar Lalvani and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords Lord Dholakia.
Joginder Sanger’s hotel collection includes the Washington Hotel Mayfair, The Bentley Hilton Hotel and the Courthouse Doubletree by Hilton London Regent Street. Sanger started his own travel agency in 1965 and subsequently began operating chartered flights to India. He has represented various international airlines between 1965 and 2000, including Air India and Pan Am, to cater to migrant community to and from India, according to the company release. He said, “There is no country better than the UK in that respect for providing an adequate opportunities to everyone to come up in life.”
Article from Evening Standard:
Revealed: the asylum tycoon
A multi-millionaire is at the centre of an inquiry into a missing three-year-old boy. Joginder Sanger and his family own the hotel where Rossi Matuvovo disappeared, in a case that has raised new fears about child trafficking in London. Scotland Yard has no idea where the boy has gone, but detectives believe he is being hidden somewhere in Britain within the Angolan community.
The boy’s plight only came to light when a man claiming to be his father was arrested trying to board a Eurostar to France on false papers.
The hunt for the child has centred on the run-down Thornecliffe Hotel, next to the M4 in west London, because the man, named by police as Fernando Matuvovo, claims he left him there in a creche. The case of the missing boy has reawakened concerns about the welfare of children being brought from Africa to Europe, after the death of Victoria Climbie and the unidentified boy known as Adam whose decapitated torso was found in the Thames.
But the latest episode has also highlighted the way asylum seekers are housed and monitored by immigration officials in London.
Inquiries by the Evening Standard have revealed that the owners of the Thornecliffe Hotel were paid an astonishing £4 million of taxpayers’ money last year to house asylum seekers at their bleak 400-room establishment.
The Thornecliffe is used by the Immigration Service as emergency accommodation for asylum seekers, but hundreds stay there in cramped conditions for months while the overstretched service deals with their claims.
It is a world away from the lifestyle enjoyed by the Sanger family, who have a £4.5 million home in Hampstead, with two Mercedes, a convertible Jaguar and a Lexus 4×4 in the drive. The hotel is a cornerstone of the Sangers’ business empire which extends to property, travel agents and insurance in Britain and India. The family – Joginder, his mother Sunita, son Girish and sister Reema – also own the four-star Washington Hotel in Curzon Street, Mayfair, where the 171 rooms offer guests “a discreet blend of classical styling with the best of modern amenities”.
Last year, the family reported more than £11million gross profit from three main businesses – the Thornecliffe, the Washington and property interests.
Yet their holding company, Mastcraft Ltd, has paid no tax in Britain for the past two years despite an income of £19million last year. Challenged by the Standard to discuss his business and the case of the missing boy, Mr Sanger refused to comment and ignored numerous phone calls.
However, Sunita Sanger, a director of the family company, told the Standard she was not concerned with the missing boy’s welfare. She said: “How am I supposed to keep track of every single little thing that happens down there? I am not interested.”
When the Standard went to the hotel, we found crowds of men, women and children of different nationalities mulling around bored and listless.
Groups of young men from the Congo stood drinking lager; shouting aggressively while children as young as three played in the grubby corridors.
The facilities in the hotel amounted to one TV in a room furnished with a tatty sofa. The only other area for socialising was a dirty corridor. Two 20-year-old men from Pakistan told of their dreams to make it in Britain and a 25-year-old man from Burma who had arrived that day said he had risked everything to get there and missed his family terribly.
They said the average time it takes for the Home Office to process their claims is three months, but some said they had been there for seven. “It’s so boring here, a lot of people drink to get away from it,” one resident said.
Another added: “Quite often people get upset and argue and shout.”
Residents complain the building is overrun by cockroaches and some showed the bite marks on their arms they claim were caused by bedbugs.
Jean Candler of the Refugee Council said: “The Home Office has chosen to have accommodation supplied by private providers who will always make money,” she said. “The money available to cover the cost of housing them per head is very small. We do not work with the owners of the Thornecliffe so cannot comment on the level of service, but anyone who supplies accommodation to asylum seekers should ensure they are providing the best service they can.”
Asylum seekers are entitled to basic accommodation, funded by taxpayers, while their claims are investigated. They have their bills paid and receive a subsistence allowance paid at 70 per cent of the basic level of income support. Many are dispersed to other parts of Britain.
The Home Office said private firms wishing to provide housing have to meet minimum standards and take part in a bidding process to ensure value for money. Some hotel-owners and landlords face the axe as the Government seeks to cut surplus places. A Home Office spokesman insisted that the Thornecliffe was “more than suitable, given the shortterm nature of any resident’s stay there“.
At first, dealing with Rossi Matuvovo was a straightforward immigration case. The boy had been travelling with the man claiming to be his father from Angola to Rome, with a stop-over in London. But when they arrived in Italy, they were sent back to Heathrow because they did not have the correct documentation. The pair were dealt with by immigration officials and placed in the Thornecliffe Hotel.
However, the Immigration Service realised they had lost touch with the boy two weeks later when Fernando Matuvovo was arrested trying to travel to France. He was alone and claimed he had left the boy in a creche at the hotel, but no one at the hotel had seen Rossi that day and the creche was closed when he was supposed to have been left there. Police believe the boy is still in this country and have appealed for help in tracing him. Thousands of children are smuggled into Europe every year, many forced to work as thieves or prostitutes.
Sanger remains a very successful businessman, who also avoided paying tax. Eventually the Thornecliffe Hotel was demolished and he Sangers have since built a luxury hotel in it’s place called the Heston Hyde Hotel. They also own the Washington Hilton in Mayfair.
The Washington Mayfair Hotel also happens to be the hotel where Keith Vaz was caught on CCTV meeting men. His stays at the hotel are normally free courtesy of Mr Sanger, except Vaz hasn’t been declaring them on the Common’s Register of Interests, as he should:
Prostitution and exploitation
When the scandal surrounding Keith Vaz broke, it was reported that the male prostitutes he met were Romanian. (See the CEOP report, above). Please also see my thoughts about male prostitution and exploitation that I wrote in regards to Keith Vaz: KEITH VAZ AND THE SORDID ELEMENT OF LEICESTER
Child Trafficking Report for Hillingdon 2008-2009
When the issue of child trafficking in Hillingdon arose, the Home Affairs Select Committee undertook a report. The chairman of that HASC was Keith Vaz. Surely if Mr Vaz had recalled the report he helped put together, he would realise that many of the men like the Romanian male prostitutes he meets, started in that life by being exploited.
Yet another example of the hypocrisy of the man?
Members of HASC, 2009:
Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP (Labour, Leicester East) (Chairman) Tom Brake MP (Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington) Ms Karen Buck MP (Labour, Regent’s Park and Kensington North) Mr James Clappison MP (Conservative, Hertsmere) Mrs Ann Cryer MP (Labour, Keighley) David TC Davies MP (Conservative, Monmouth) Mrs Janet Dean MP (Labour, Burton) Patrick Mercer MP (Conservative, Newark) Margaret Moran MP (Labour, Luton South) Gwyn Prosser MP (Labour, Dover) Bob Russell MP (Liberal Democrat, Colchester) Martin Salter MP (Labour, Reading West) Mr Gary Streeter MP (Conservative, South West Devon) Mr David Winnick MP (Labour, Walsall North)
DISCLAIMER: Any mention of names within this post does not imply guilt.
This is an issue that requires further exploration. In the meantime….